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Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas

China
Factors affecting the property in 2019*
  • Commercial hunting
  • Major visitor accommodation and associated infrastructure
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Mining
  • Water infrastructure
  • Other Threats:

    Apparent decline in wildlife populations

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Water infrastructure (major hydropower development on all main rivers and related infrastructure)
  • Mining (in and near the property)
  • Management systems/management plan (absence of overall serial property-wide management system and plan including tourism planning; unclear property boundaries and absence of demarcation)
  • Major visitor accommodation and associate infrastructure (tourism infrastructure conflicting with conservation objectives)
  • Commercial hunting (apparent decline in wildlife populations suspected to be a result of trade in wildlife and wildlife derivatives)
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2019
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2019**

April 2006: UNESCO/IUCN joint Reactive Monitoring mission; April 2013: IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019

On 30 November 2018, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1083/documents, and responds to Committee Decision 41 COM 7B.27 (Krakow, 2017), as follows:

  • All mineral exploration and extraction has been terminated, including illegal mining and quarrying, and all permits inside the property and in the buffer zone suspended;
  • Envisaged ecological restoration of mining sites is hampered by the absence of clear technical guidance and responsibilities and is relying on natural restoration processes;
  • Commitment to monitoring landscape connectivity and wildlife between the Hongshan and Haba Snow Mountain components where active mining continues;
  • A 2016 draft of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) focusing on mining, hydropower and associated infrastructure requires additional work due to limited experience and guidance available, the scale and topographic complexity of the property, as well as paucity of data. A summary of the draft SEA was annexed to the report;
  • All hydropower projects planned or under construction are located outside the property and its buffer zone and therefore considered to have no direct impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). While no hydropower development is reported on the Nujiang River, several projects have been completed on the Lancang and Jinsha Rivers. The impacts of the power transmission lines and transformation facilities on the OUV of the property will be assessed;
  • Acknowledgement that both the SEA and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) need to be improved, and assistance of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN will be sought;
  • Impacts of the Dianzhong Water Diversion Project at the Shigu section of the Jinsha River are negated on the grounds of the selected location outside of the property and its buffer zone, and the water quantity to be removed (8% of the water flow);
  • Acknowledgement of the need for systematic Management Effectiveness Assessment (MEA) after current institutional reform since 2018;
  • In 2018, Yunnan Province ratified an “Ecological Conservation Redline”, which prohibits all development inside the property and its buffer zones;
  • Elaboration of both a Strategic Master Plan for Regional Development and Conservation Management Planning for the property is underway;
  • A pilot programme to initiate a “National Park” category in China is expected to reach conclusion in 2020;
  • Numerous ecological research projects are on-going;
  • Rural poverty is suggested to be the main factor threatening heritage protection. The State Party is making efforts to alleviate poverty in the property area by engaging local communities including indigenous peoples in park management and tourism services. Some villages have been or are going to be relocated upon consensus by the residents to improve their living conditions as well as heritage protection.

On 25 March 2019, the State Party submitted additional information on the EIAs of four ongoing power transmission projects involving the property and its buffer zones upon request of the World Heritage Centre. The information is under technical review by IUCN.   

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2019

The confirmation of the closure and termination of mines inside the property and its buffer zones, as a follow up to previous commitments to consider the whole area off limits, is welcomed. The overdue closure of active mining and permanent suspension of all permits should be followed up by site restoration to mitigate impacts and risks. In order to prevent any illegal mining activities, continued monitoring and law enforcement will be required. It is welcomed that monitoring is foreseen between the Hongshan and the Haba Snow Mountain components, an area excised from the property in 2010.

Follow-up on the SEA and the objective to increase EIA standards are similarly welcomed. It is noted that the main conclusion of the draft SEA is that the general state of conservation of the property is good; however, the primary objective of an SEA is not to assess conservation status. It is recommended that the SEA be further revised, in line with the IUCN World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment; the World Heritage Centre and IUCN are available to provide guidance to the State Party to identify opportunities to cooperate on the elaboration of the SEA and EIAs.

Further completion of hydropower developments on the Lancang and Jinsha Rivers and the physical location of all hydropower infrastructure outside the property and its buffer zone are noted. However, the modification of entire river systems inevitably comes with major changes of aquatic systems beyond the visible physical footprint. It is well documented that hydropower development can also result in disturbance, loss of connectivity, improved road access facilitating illicit activities and species invasions on land. Furthermore, it is noted with concern that some power transmission lines also cross the property, as confirmed by the State Party in the additional information it submitted. From the brief summary of the EIAs developed for the transmission lines, submitted by the State Party, it appears the EIAs do not specifically assess potential impacts of such infrastructure on the OUV of the property, particularly on its values recognized under criterion (vii). Such a specific assessment will therefore need to be developed in order to understand the level of impacts on the property resulting from the construction of the power lines.

It is noted that, although hydropower development on the Nujiang River has repeatedly been suspended in the past, a decision in favour of such development appears to be pending still. Considering that the Nujiang River is now the only river – out of three that gave the property its name – which retains its relatively natural state, it is important that the State Party continue to protect its natural flow. The State Party should also ensure that no further development is considered until the SEA for the property and buffer zone has been completed.

The State Party’s engagement with local communities including indigenous peoples to alleviate poverty is welcomed. The reported institutional reforms can positively enhance the management coherence across the vast serial property under the leadership of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration. The Strategic Master Plan for Regional Development and the Conservation Management Plan for the property should be harmonized, fully taking into account the evolving management framework.

Finally, the Community Management of Protected Areas for Conservation (COMPACT) initiative offers a proven model for promoting sustainable development near and within World Heritage sites, while engaging indigenous and local communities in conservation and governance of these properties. Building on this experience, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP) and the World Heritage Centre propose a joint Asia-Pacific COMPACT capacity-building workshop in the region to extend the COMPACT model. It is recommended that the Committee encourage the State Party to organize this activity in Yunnan Province prior to the Fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the United Nation's Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15) in Yunnan in October 2020. This will allow to present the GEF SGP project sites around World Heritage properties in connection with the workshop.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2019
43 COM 7B.5
Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Area (China) (N 1083bis)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 41 COM 7B.27, adopted at its 41st session (Krakow, 2017),
  3. Welcomes the State Party’s commitment to consider the property and its buffer zone entirely off limits with regard to mineral exploration and extraction, and in particular:
    1. The permanent closure of active mining operations and the commitment to ecological restoration of mining sites,
    2. The permanent suspension of all mineral exploration and extraction permits, including in the buffer zone,
    3. The focus on addressing illegal small-scale mining and quarrying,
    4. The monitoring of actively mined areas between the Hongshan and the Haba Snow Mountain components;
  4. Strongly encourages the State Party to finalize adequate guidance and to clarify institutional responsibilities on ecological restoration in post-mining sites;
  5. Notes with concern that the draft Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is not in line with the IUCN World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, and urges again the State Party to further elaborate the SEA while strengthening technical expertise and capacity in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN;
  6. Also welcomes the evolution of the overarching institutional and planning framework under the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, including the elaboration of Conservation Management Plan for the property and a Strategic Master Plan for Regional Development beyond the property, and also strongly encourages the State Party to consider both the SEA findings and the changing institutional framework when elaborating these plans;
  7. Further encourages the State Party to take advantage of the improved coordination measures for the property to continue the implementation of the 2013 Reactive Monitoring mission recommendations, and in particular the establishment of an overarching Management Effectiveness Assessment (MEA) system;
  8. Reiterates its concern that the increasing change in views and beauty of all three river valleys and the impacts of the hydropower and related infrastructure projects on connectivity between component parts of the property are likely to have a direct negative impact on the property’s OUV and strongly urges the State Party not to consider any further development until the SEA for the property and buffer zone has been completed, and ensure that the last remaining free flowing river Nujiang is not altered by hydropower development;
  9. Encourages furthermore the State Party to organize a joint World Heritage Centre/GEF SGP Asia-Pacific Community Management of Protected Areas for Conservation (COMPACT) capacity-building workshop in the property, in collaboration with the World Heritage Centre, to extend the COMPACT model to the Asia-Pacific region;
  10. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2020, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 45th session in 2021;
Draft Decision: 43 COM 7B.5

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 41 COM 7B.27, adopted at its 41st session (Krakow, 2017),
  3. Welcomes the State Party’s commitment to consider the property and its buffer zone entirely off limits with regard to mineral exploration and extraction, and in particular:
    1. The permanent closure of active mining operations and the commitment to ecological restoration of mining sites,
    2. The permanent suspension of all mineral exploration and extraction permits, including in the buffer zone,
    3. The focus on addressing illegal small-scale mining and quarrying,
    4. The monitoring of actively mined areas between the Hongshan and the Haba Snow Mountain components;
  4. Strongly encourages the State Party to finalize adequate guidance and to clarify institutional responsibilities on ecological restoration in post-mining sites;
  5. Notes with concern that the draft Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is not in line with the IUCN World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, and urges again the State Party to further elaborate the SEA while strengthening technical expertise and capacity in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN;
  6. Also welcomes the evolution of the overarching institutional and planning framework under the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, including the elaboration of Conservation Management Plan for the property and a Strategic Master Plan for Regional Development beyond the property, and also strongly encourages the State Party to consider both the SEA findings and the changing institutional framework when elaborating these plans;
  7. Further encourages the State Party to take advantage of the improved coordination measures for the property to continue the implementation of the 2013 Reactive Monitoring mission recommendations, and in particular the establishment of an overarching Management Effectiveness Assessment (MEA) system;
  8. Reiterates its concern that the increasing change in views and beauty of all three river valleys and the impacts of the hydropower and related infrastructure projects on connectivity between component parts of the property are likely to have a direct negative impact on the property’s OUV and strongly urges the State Party not to consider any further development until the SEA for the property and buffer zone has been completed, and ensure that the last remaining free flowing river Nujiang is not altered by hydropower development;
  9. Encourages furthermore the State Party to organize a joint World Heritage Centre/GEF SGP Asia-Pacific Community Management of Protected Areas for Conservation (COMPACT) capacity-building workshop in the property, in collaboration with the World Heritage Centre, to extend the COMPACT model to the Asia-Pacific region;
  10. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2020, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 45th session in 2021.
Report year: 2019
China
Date of Inscription: 2003
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(viii)(ix)(x)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2018) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 43COM (2019)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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